‘Yellow vests’ 10th protest tests Macron

Source:AFP Published: 2019/1/20 19:13:40

French president vigorously defends reforms in series of town hall debates


France's "yellow vests" took to the streets Saturday for a 10th straight weekend of anti-government protests, despite attempts by President Emmanuel Macron to channel their anger into a series of town hall debates.

The president, who was caught off guard when the protests began late last year, went on the counteroffensive last week, spending hours in rural France debating with disgruntled mayors.

But tens of thousands of yellow vests refused Saturday to demobilize. 

In Paris, several thousand people, many waving placards calling for Macron to resign or condemning police violence, marched through the Left Bank in freezing temperatures.

The rally in Paris - as well as those in Rennes, Toulouse, Lyon and several other cities - ended in sporadic clashes, with police using tear gas and water ­cannon to disperse hooded protesters who threw paving stones and bottles.

But for the second consecutive week there were no signs of the chaos and destruction seen over several successive weekends in the capital.

Turnout was closely watched for signs of possible fatigue in the movement as it enters its third month and Macron's "great national debate" gains momentum. The interior ministry said 84,000 protesters took to the streets across the country, matching the number of demonstrators a week earlier. In Paris attendance fell to 7,000 from 8,000 in the previous week.  

By giving the protesters a forum to debate their grievances, Macron hopes to draw them off the streets. Last week, he kick-started two months of nationwide discussions on issues ranging from taxes to public services, spending more than 12 hours debating with mayors in the north and southwest of the country.

Macron was elected at the head of a grass-roots movement that went door-to-door asking the French what kind of changes were needed. But once in office he adopted a top-down approach more in keeping with that of post-war president Charles de Gaulle. A prodigious debater, he vigorously defended his reforms in the town hall meetings but assured he was open to making adjustments.

Many "yellow vests," however, see the debates as an attempt to drain support from their movement, which erupted in mid-November over fuel taxes but quickly grew into a broader anti-Macron, anti-elites, anti-globalization revolt.



Posted in: EUROPE

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